As the FIFA World Cup 2022 approaches in Doha, fans from around the world are flocking in. But with no diplomatic relations between the two nations, Qatar is not making it easy for Israeli fans to attend by requiring direct flights from Israel to make a “diplomatic layover” in Cyprus.
Direct Flights From Israel To Qatar Will Make “Diplomatic Layover” In Cyprus
Qatar does not recognize Israel, but is happy to sell tickets to Israelis for the upcoming World Cup. This will mark the first time Israelis will be welcomed into Qatar without being forced to use a non-Israeli passport.
There are no direct flights between the two. El-Al is not allowed to fly to Doha and Qatar Airways will not fly to Tel Aviv. But TUS Airways, a Cypriot airline, sought to fly nonstop from Tel Aviv (TLV) to Doha (DOH) during the World Cup.
Its request was denied. Sort of.
TUS cannot operate nonstop, but will operate a “direct” flight from Tel Aviv to Doha via Larnaca (LCA). In Larnaca, passengers will remain onboard, the crew will not change, but the plane will sit for a short “diplomatic layover” before proceeding on to Doha.
Tel Aviv to Larnaca service is just 50 minutes, followed by a 3.5 hour flight from Larnaca to Doha. The LCA-DOH flight will avoid Israeli airspace, hence the slightly longer travel time versus a straight line of 1,261 miles.
Is it just me, or does this also strike you as the same sort of tomfoolery that characterized Egypt Air’s special “Air Sinai” flight between Tel Aviv and Cairo for so many years? Oh, we’ll do business with the Israelis. We’ll even welcome them using thier own passports. But we still will not place the nation on many of our maps or, in the case of Qatar, even recognize it as real.
Israeli passport holders will be welcomed at the World Cup in Doha…but nonstop flights will not be permitted. One operator, TUS, will operate about as close to a direct flight as possible, making only a brief “diplomatic layover” in Larnaca.
Of course, Israelis can also fly via Dubai on Emriates, via Abu Dhabi on Etihad, via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, or other more indirect routes. But it seems like football diplomacy would have been a great way for Qatar and Israel to establish diplomatic relations.
The intra-Sunni conflict between Qatar and its neighbors was (and to a degree still is) complicated and I do not mean to downplay it. So is the Palestinian question in Israel and Qatar’s interest in that struggle. But this whole dog and pony show of forcing flights to make “diplomatic layovers” strikes me a comically pathetic.
image: Lazaros327 / Wikimedia Commons